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How toxic is your home?

How toxic is your home?

You might think of the home you live in as a pollution-free oasis. If so, think again.

Recent research by the Clean Air Day campaign found indoor air pollution in UK households is, on average, over three-times worse than that experienced outdoors, and labelled many UK households ‘toxic boxes’.

Pollution culprits in UK homes

The main culprits are cooking and the burning of wood, as well as cleaning fluids, decorating products and outdoor pollution getting inside from transport. The pollution builds up at peak times, such as rush hour and when cooking, and takes longer to disperse than in the outdoors.

How to cut indoor toxicity

With this in mind, here’s what you can do to help detoxify your home and make it a greener, healthier space to be in:

  • Extractor fans – Many households have ducted hoods over cookers and extractor fans in bathrooms, but not all use them. They’re there for a reason, so make sure you use yours.

  • Get the vacuum out – If possible get your hands on a good vacuum cleaner – the best get rid of at least twice as much dust and other particles as poorer quality ones. Microscopic particulates from traffic pollution as well as pollen, pet hair and dust mites can be very detrimental to human health.

  • Open those windows! – It may seem obvious, but just about the quickest way to clear in-house pollutants is to open the windows, especially in the colder months when homes can get stuffy and have boilers working overtime. If you live near busy roads, try and do so outside of rush hour and busy traffic times.

  • High humidity – A sure sign your home has too high a level of humidity are signs of damp and mould, which can cause respiratory and sleeping problems.  Think about buying a good de-humidifier and keep walls and surfaces mould-free. If you dry clothes indoors, open windows and use racks, not radiators.

  • Painting and decorating – Paint and decorate your home with paints and products which are clearly labelled as having zero, or at least very low, levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs can cause respiratory irritation and even long-term damage to internal organs and the nervous system.

  • Aerosols, candles and cleaning fluids – VOCs are also found in many household cleaning products as well as scented candles and aerosol sprays. Again, check labels before you buy and use.

  • Wood burning – Wood burning stoves are very fashionable as are open fires. However, you should only really be burning low-sulphur and smokeless fuels which are less or zero polluting if you don’t want to seriously add to indoor pollution.

  • Green up your home – Plants are one of the best, and of course most eco-friendly, ways of cleaning up the air in your home. The more the merrier, frankly, so get down your garden centre now.

  • Cooking – Old pans with flaking coating may be bad for your health if they get into the food you cook, so change your pans if necessary. Those made from iron, stainless steel and copper, and which have no coatings, are considered the best.

  • Boilers – Boilers emit a certain level of carbon dioxide, and even carbon monoxide if they’re malfunctioning, which is a silent killer. Have yours checked annually by a heating engineer, or even replace it if it’s really old, which will help cut potential pollutants indoors.

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Published 20 August 2019